South Carolina faces lawsuit after abortion ban

South Carolina has prompted a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood, after it signed a sweeping abortion ban into law on Thursday.

The so-called 'fetal heartbeat' law bans an abortion if a heartbeat can already be detected.

That's often after just six weeks and before a woman realizes she is pregnant.

Most states generally consider the threshold for prohibiting abortion to be 24 weeks.

That's when a fetus is viable outside the womb.

Governor Henry McMaster said it's been his priority to sign the 'heartbeat' bill into law.

"It is a duty that we share, as Americans and South Carolinians, to protect life above all else. That's what we're here for. So who possesses that right, that we seek to protect, in America, in South Carolina? Who posses the right? We have the duty, who has the right? All of us have the right."

Planned Parenthood has argued that the measure was unconstitutional.

The South Atlantic division of the women's health group filed a lawsuit in court shortly afterwards, citing previous success with challenging similar laws in other states.

The pro-life Centre for Reproductive Rights said in a statement, "This ban blatantly defies nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent protecting a person's right to end a pregnancy."

The new law is one of the most restrictive bans in the country, where abortion remains one of the most divisive political issues.

However it does allow abortions under some circumstances, including rape, incest or if the mother's life is in danger.